David Beatty may someday win an Oscar, headline the Sundance Film Festival or oversee his own TV show, but nothing may ever top the night he first had a movie screened in Huntington Beach.
The Surf City resident's feature-length debut, "Surviving New Year's," played several years ago at the SoCal Film Festival, an annual showcase of independent films at the Huntington Beach Central Library. Beatty had overseen the dark comedy from brainstorming sessions to post-production, and he knew every second of it by heart — but he still had no idea how it would play before an audience of strangers. When he sat in the dark and heard the crowd's reaction, he laid his fears to rest.
"They got it," said Beatty, whose short film "Lien On Me" is on the festival's program this year. "They responded. I had friends tell me they heard people talking about it in the bathroom."
The SoCal Film Festival, now in its sixth year, offers filmmakers like Beatty a chance to show their work before an audience — in some cases, the first audience it will ever have. The five-day program features 95 short and feature films in the library's theater, complete with a red carpet and an awards ceremony the final day.
The festival will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday with the surfing documentary "Shaped," followed by the romantic comedy "Gary Has No Pants," starring UC Irvine graduate Kristin Keating. Many of the festival's entries come from area filmmakers, with others hailing from Mexico, Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Ireland and Colombia.
Event Director Brian Barsuglia, who has made films in the past that played on the festival circuit, called the SoCal Film Festival a leg up for aspiring filmmakers.
"Every year, we look forward to the same thing — to share the great movies that are being made out there," he said. "I'm a huge film fan. I've worked in the industry. The independent film world is huge, and this is the chance for these films to be seen in theaters."
More than 1,000 entries come in every year for the festival, which uses a volunteer selection committee to determine the final playlist. A panel of nearly 40 jurors nationwide, which has access to the films before the festival, votes on the awards for Best Feature, Best Short and others given out on the final day.
Huntington Beach residents may recognize their hometown in a few submissions. Beatty filmed all of "Lien On Me" just a short drive from the Central Library, while Brett Carlson, a Los Angeles-based director, filmed parts of his short film "Take My Wife" in Surf City.
Carlson, who has accompanied his film to more than 30 festivals over the last year, filmed in Huntington on the recommendation of a co-producer, who arranged some scenes to be shot in her parents' house. The city turned out to be an easy location for Carlson, who has sometimes dealt with difficult onlookers in the past.
"In L.A., people often honk when they drive by you," he said. "But we didn't experience that in Huntington Beach."
If You Go
What: SoCal Film Festival
Where: Huntington Beach Central Library, 7111 Talbert Ave.
When: Tuesday through Oct. 2
Admission: $5 for short film collections; $7 for feature films; $20 for Friday-Saturday pass; $30 for all-festival pass
Information: (800) 714-5976 or http://www.socalfilmfest.com